Frequently Asked Questions about the Notice of Indirect Collection of Personal Information

From Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12

Frequently Asked Questions:

What kind of information is collected by the ministry and who provides it?

The ministry indirectly collects personal information and other information from several sources, including but not limited to schools, school boards, school authorities, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and other ministries, agencies, institutions, persons, or entities. Personal information is defined in section 2(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to mean recorded information about an identifiable individual.

The ministry indirectly collects personal information such as educator data and student data. The range of personal information collected by the ministry from school boards and other organizations includes:

Educator Data

  • Ministry Educator Number (MEN)
  • Biographical information
    • Name
    • Gender
    • Date of Birth
    • Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) Number

Educator Employment History

  • Board and/or School Educator Assignment information (including position type, courses taught and Full Time Equivalency (FTE))
  • Admission From and Transfers/Retirements
  • Letter of Permission (LOP)
  • Temporary Letter of Approval (TLA)
  • Performance Appraisal (including New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP))

Student Data

  • Ontario Education Number (OEN)
  • Biographical information:
    • Name
    • Gender
    • Date of Birth
    • Place of Birth (Country or Province)
    • Country of Origin (if not Place of Birth)
    • Year of Entry
    • Voluntary, Confidential Indigenous Student Self-Identification information
    • Postal Code
    • Status in Canada
  • Early Years Experiences

Student Education History

  • School Enrolment (Admissions information including school name, grade, enrolment start and end dates)
  • Attendance
  • Achievement:
    • Credits
    • Marks
    • Diploma/Certificates
    • Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)
    • Report Card
    • Community Hours
  • Program information:
    • Regular
    • Special Education
    • Second Language (English, French, Native)
    • Supervised Alternative Learning (SAL)
    • Extended Day Program
    • Program Participation
  • Suspensions/Expulsions (occurrence information)
  • Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) Assessment
  • Post-Secondary Application and Registration

Why does the ministry need to collect all of this information if schools, school boards and school authorities already collect it?

Schools, school boards and school authorities collect data for the purposes of providing educational services, including administration and planning at the local level. In order to achieve improved outcomes for students, it is important that education policies, programs and practices are based on evidence. As such, it is necessary for the ministry to collect, analyze and report on information from schools, school boards and other organizations.

The ministry collects personal information, directly or indirectly throughout the year and uses this personal information for purposes related to the following matters, which are found in the Education Act:

  • administering the Education Act and the regulations, and implementing the policies and guidelines made under the Education Act
  • ensuring compliance with the Education Act, the regulations, and the policies and guidelines made under the Education Act
  • planning or delivering programs or services that the ministry provides or funds, in whole or in part, allocating resources to any of them, evaluating or monitoring any of them, tracking student outcomes and transitions to post-secondary education and/or training or detecting, monitoring and preventing fraud or any unauthorized receipt of services or benefits related to any of them
  • planning or delivering extended day programs, allocating resources to them, evaluating or monitoring them, or detecting, monitoring and preventing fraud or any unauthorized receipt of services or benefits related to them
  • providing for financial assistance related to extended day programs, evaluating or monitoring the provision of the assistance or detecting, monitoring and preventing fraud or any unauthorized receipt of benefits related to the assistance
  • risk management, error management or activities to:
    • improve or maintain the quality of the programs or services that the ministry provides or funds, in whole or in part
    • improve or maintain the quality of extended day programs
    • improve or maintain the provision of financial assistance related to extended day programs
  • research and statistical activities that relate to education and are conducted by or on behalf of the ministry

Where, specifically, does personal information come from?

The ministry may collect personal information directly from an individual.

The ministry also collects personal information from other persons or entities instead of directly from the individual to whom the information relates. This is called an ‘indirect collection of information'. The Notice of Indirect Collection of Personal Information on the Ministry of Education website provides more information on the indirect collection of personal information.

The ministry has the authority to collect personal information, directly or indirectly, under subsection 8.1(1) of the Education Act, R.S.O 1990, c. E.2.

What happens to the personal information when the ministry collects it indirectly?

Generally, when the ministry collects personal information indirectly, the personal information is collected by the Education Statistics and Analysis Branch (ESAB) on behalf of the ministry. Because the ministry must verify that the information it collects is accurate, the ministry uses the biographical data (i.e., personal information) to ensure that the correct Ministry Educator Number (MEN) or Ontario Education Number (OEN) has been reported.

Once this verification has taken place, ESAB retains the data in a secure environment and acts as the gatekeeper for requests from other ministry staff and external researchers. In most cases, these users would only obtain access to data in a depersonalized format, meaning that the data would not contain personal identifiers.

How does the ministry depersonalize personal information?

Personal information is defined in section 2(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to mean recorded information about an identifiable individual.

The ministry takes reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information disclosed to it by individuals or other organizations is accurate and up-to-date before it is used by the ministry.

To ensure the security and confidentiality of personal information, the ministry depersonalizes the personal information it indirectly collects by:

  • verifying that the personal information matches ministry data
  • removing and securely destroying identifiers and all of the sensitive fields (such as first name, last name, gender and date of birth) that could lead to the identification of an individual from the copy of the data
  • encrypting the remaining OEN data on the copy of the data to create the depersonalized data
  • loading the depersonalized data into the ministry data warehouse
  • securely destroying the source files provided by the organization immediately afterwards

What are some examples of the ministry's use of depersonalized data?

The following are examples of some of the ways in which the ministry uses depersonalized data:

How does the ministry protect the privacy of students' and educators' information?

Personal information indirectly collected by the ministry is protected in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31, and with the following restrictions:

  • The ministry only collects and uses personal information if other information will not serve the intended purpose.
  • All records containing personal information are maintained in a secure and limited access environment. For example:
    • the technology used for transmission of personal information is secure and password-protected
    • data is transferred electronically to the ministry to maximize the accuracy of information, thereby reducing the possibility of human data entry errors
    • personal information is only accessible to a limited number of authorized staff in the ministry
    • school boards and other organizations that provide data to the ministry ensure the accuracy of personal information prior to transferring the information to the ministry
    • redundant data is eliminated
  • In most cases the ministry can meet its information needs after depersonalizing the data to remove identifiers and all of the sensitive fields that could lead to the identification of an individual.
  • Records are destroyed in a secure manner when no longer required by the ministry.
  • Unless required by law, it is the ministry's policy to not publicly report ‘aggregate data' if the data relates to fewer than ten individuals. This suppression of aggregate data, where the data relates to review that then individuals, is an extra precaution taken to protect privacy.
  • Unless required by law, the ministry does not publicly report information to the public if the number of students involved is so small that the individual might be identifiable, even though individual results don't include student names. The ministry uses depersonalized data for public resources and reports.